Take the Guesswork Out of Carpet Specifications
A client once told me that choosing carpet was much like choosing a diamond. Unless you had the right expertise and knew what to look for, you are left at the mercy of the sales representative as they explain the importance of the cut, clarity, color and carat weight. A diamond is just a rock without the story of the specification. The mysteries surrounding a diamond can confuse many people and, in the same way, so does commercial carpet.
Commercial carpet is just a rug without the story of the specification. There have been many advances in commercial carpet construction over the years. Let’s take some of the mystery out of specifying what is now high-performance, soft-surface commercial flooring.
First, it’s important to understand the basic components of commercial carpets and how or why they are used.
Carpet Construction 101
Before you can make informed specification decisions for carpet, it’s important to understand its DNA and what makes different types of carpet suitable for different applications. A few basic components make up commercial carpet products and their characteristics, including:
Yarn Systems: Yarn systems are important in a commercial environment and can impact the longevity of the installation. There are four main yarn systems available for commercial carpet.
PET/Polyester: Highly stain resistant; low appearance retention in normal construction.
Olefin/Polypropylene: High resistance to chemical and sunlight fading; subject to burn marks due to its low melting point.
Nylon: Most used; excellent appearance retention and stain resistance.
Wool: Durable and self-extinguishing.
Due to superior appearance retention and performance characteristics, nylon is the predominant fiber used in commercial environments. Nylon is the one fiber that chemically can be produced using different carbon polymers leading to different yarn types referred to as type 6 or type 6,6. The most common nylon is type 6 for its excellent performance at a lower cost and ease of closed loop recyclability. Type 6,6 is up to 20% harder, giving it improved long-term performance, but is more expensive and difficult to recycle at the end of life. If reclaimed at the end of life, many commercial carpets are recycled into things such as car parts or other plastics.
Construction: Carpets have three basic construction types: cut pile, loop pile, and cut and loop. Low and dense loop pile construction will perform best for high-traffic areas. Cut and loop and cut pile constructions can provide a more elegant feel and are typically used in medium- to light-traffic areas. Good carpet construction in tufted carpet represents the balance between multiple construction elements such as gauge, stitches per inch, ounce weight and pile height.
The Carpet and Rug institute (CRI) developed a model that classifies carpet using a Texture Appearance Retention Rating (TARR). This model is based on simulated wear tests and provides a rating for different levels of traffic. The CRI recommends the following scale for TARR:
Moderate ≥ 2.5 TARR
Heavy ≥ 3.0 TARR
Severe ≥ 3.5 TARR
Dye Methods: There are two option when dyeing carpet: pre-dyeing or post-dyeing. In pre-dyeing the color is added to the fiber before it is made into carpet. In post-dyeing, the carpet or fiber is made using white yarn and color is added after.
Solution dyed: Color pigment is added to the fiber while it is in molten state making it extremely colorfast. It has the benefit of large dye lots, but standard colors are limited.
Yarn dyed: This is a process of dyeing the yarn individually. Typically used for space dyed or skein dyed.
Piece dyed/Beck dyed: Carpet is manufactured using white yarn and then is submerged into a dye bath to apply color. Virtually unlimited colors available. Limitations are smaller dye lots.
Printing/Dye injection: This process applies color to the carpet by screen print or inkjet. The advantages are precise color placement and nearly unlimited pattern options.
Color/Pattern: Color and pattern play a significant role in the long-term appearance of the product because your clients are concerned with the appearance and feel of their space. In addition to the emotion that color can generate when new, it will give a different emotion when the soiling shows. We all know that a lighter color will show more soiling and stains than a darker color. This holds true in every textile product.
As such, choosing a pattern that will blend with the type of soil or stains in the environment will lessen their visibility. In addition, organic and geometric patterns will provide enough visual distraction to hide the stains as opposed to monochromatic products.
Broadloom or Modular Tile: In commercial environments, broadloom refers to rolled goods typically that are 6-feet, 12-feet and even up to 15-feet wide. Modular tile refers to units that may come in a variety of sizes and shapes, creating a design element on the floor defined by the shape of the tile. Both constructions have their benefits for specific applications.
For instance, the most functional examples of broadloom use would be waterfall installation on lobby stairs. In contrast, modular carpet tile is a very practical option for access flooring or under modular furniture. There are no hard and fast rules for the use of broadloom or carpet tiles, but some applications highlight the best results for each format.
If your space features any of the following elements, your first choice should be carpet tiles:
Access flooring: Easily remove carpet tiles to access wiring below.
Workstation furniture: No need to dismantle furniture; just lift and install carpet tiles.
Projects on the second floor or above without a freight elevator: It is difficult to get 12-foot broadloom into small elevators.
Curved spaces or designs: Carpet tiles minimize waste created by non-traditional layouts.
Now that you understand the basics of construction you can use that to specify the right materials for the space.
Questions to Ask the Client
Knowing which type of carpet will be best suited for a project will depend on the application it’s being used for. Some helpful questions to narrow down the type of carpet that’s best suited for the client’s needs include:
Is this a remodel or a new construction?
What type of soil is likely to be tracked on the carpet?
What types of spills may occur?
Life expectancy of the installation?
What amount of traffic is in the space? (light, moderate, heavy)
Will there be rolling traffic?
The answers to these questions will help determine which type of carpet, construction, yarn and dyeing process to choose for the best result.
In our post-pandemic world, many of the concerns will revolve around sterilization and limiting the risk of infection transmission. Many clients will immediately think that hard surfaces would be the answer over carpet.
The truth is that there are proper methods to clean and sanitize both hard surface and carpet. A professional floor care contractor can sanitize both properly. One advantage that carpet has over hard surface is in the reduced transmission of germs. Carpet, being a soft surface, will hold the germs closer to the floor, usually less than 36 inches, minimizing the transmission of germs to door handles or faces and making sanitizing more efficient.